How fast are electric bikes—it’s a question that’s been uttered out of the mouths of many as more and more electric bikes have landed on the roads. People are generally quick to compare them to motorcycles or other types of vehicles equipped to reach really high speeds.
While there are some electric ‘superbikes’ capable of reaching speeds of up to 100 miles an hour, most of the electric bikes you see on the road travel at around 15 to 20 miles per hour (24 to 32 kilometres per hour). These normal traveling speeds are based on the regulations developed around the globe that have established maximum speeds for electric bikes.
These average speeds are based upon what the electric motors are capable of themselves, and as such, higher speeds can be reached by manually using the pedals. In addition, some of the modern bikes that are capable of higher speeds have off-road modes but allow them to travel at speeds of up to around 50 miles per hour (80 kilometres per hour).
Need for Speed
Of all the questions coming from the electric bike community, one of the most popular deals with how fast they go. There are many misconceptions around the speed of electric bikes, most notably that they all go really fast.
While it’s certainly possible for them to amass a lot of speed, government regulations around the world restrict them from getting too fast. While these restrictions limit the top speeds of most electric bikes, a little bit of pedal power can really get your adrenaline pumping.
If you’re on the city streets in most parts of the world, most of the electric bikes you’ll see will be traveling at around 15 to 20 miles per hour (24 to 32 kilometres per hour).
There is some slight variation between different countries; let’s take a look.
While they may sometimes seem like an annoyance, regulations are important for keeping everyone on the road safe. As electric bicycles have become more and more popular recently around the globe, cities across the world are taking extra measures to ensure the safety of all travellers.
In fact, in one area just outside of Amsterdam a new system has been installed that automatically slows electric bicycles as they pass. Certain top speed bicycles aren’t permitted in most countries, as they are capable of going 45 kilometres per hour, however, if they go by one of these newly tested systems, they would automatically be slowed to speeds allowed in most countries.
In the United States, sales of electric bikes have increased, in some cases rising more than 80% in just a year. Safety is a priority of most American electric bike riders, and many are in favour of the speed limit regulations set out by the government.
In the US, a low-speed electric bicycle is one that has fully operable pedals and an electric motor with less than 750 watts of power. HB 727, a 2002 law regulates that these low speed electric bicycles cannot operate at speeds faster than 20 miles per hour (32 kilometres per hour). However, there is no maximum speed for electric bicycles that use a combination of motor and human power.
Tiered Classification System
In many American states, a classification system has been designed to differentiate between certain electric bicycles with varying speed capabilities.
- Class 1: This is the lowest class of electric bicycles, those are equipped with a motor that is only activated to assist pedalling (without activating the throttle). The motor ceases to operate when speeds of 20 MPH are reached.
- Class 2: These low speed bicycles are throttle-assisted and can propel the bicycle without any pedalling. These bikes are also limited at 20 MPH, but higher speeds can be reached by pedalling.
- Class 3: The fastest class, these are known as “speed pedal-assisted” electric bicycles. Similar to Class 1, they will provide assistance when the rider is pedalling. Class 3 bikes can reach speeds of up to 32 MPH, and many models include a speedometer. While these reach speeds higher than permitted by regulatory measures, if they are equipped with a motor below 750 watts, they should be fine to ride anywhere.
Similar to the United States, European regulation limits the speed of electric bikes and uses a class system to differentiate electric bicycles. Generally speaking, electric bicycles are either included in class L1e-A or L1e-B. This classification is for vehicles with two wheels and power outputs of less than 1000 watts and less than 4000 watts, respectively.
For most electric bikes (class L1e-A), engines are permitted to reach maximum speeds of 25 kilometres per hour (15.5 miles per hour). However, in countries such as Denmark, electric “superbikes” (class L1e-B) are permitted that can reach speeds of up to 45 kilometres per hour (28 miles per hour).
In Canada, regulations have Incorporated a motor allowance of 500 watts. This translates to a maximum speed of 32 kilometres per hour, allowing both throttle and pedal assist to be used.
Australian regulations are similar to those in Europe, allowing for motors of 200 to 250 watts to be used. In the case bikes with a lower wattage output, pedal assist systems are not permitted. Pedal-assist is allowed for 250-watt bikes. Within city limits, top speeds of 25 km per hour are permitted.
Biologically speaking, we experience feelings of reward when we go fast. Top speeds are accompanied by adrenaline, which increases both blood pressure and heart rate— giving us some of the best natural highs around.
Experiencing top speeds can actually be quite addicting. If you’ve ever been on a roller coaster or felt the rush during take-off in an airplane, you will have experienced the release of feel-good chemicals.
It’s not just biology that drives our desires to speed; speed is something taught in our culture. Going fast has become a way of life—we work quickly, we eat quickly, and we love getting where we need to be quickly.
Vehicle manufacturers—whether car, boat, or bicycle—are aware of our desires to experience speed. While governments may place restrictions on top speeds achieved by electric bicycles, it doesn’t mean that manufacturers aren’t producing electric bicycles that can excite the adrenaline junkies of the world.
Many newer models have modes that are in line with legal regulations, as well as off-road modes that can reach higher speeds. It’s not uncommon for some of these top bikes to reach speeds of 35 miles per hour—up to around 50 or 60 miles per hour (80-96 kilometres per hour).
BlackTrail Electric Bicycle
About a decade ago the BlackTrail electric bicycle made headlines as the fastest electric bike on the market. Selling for a hefty 75,000 USD, the price tag was as shocking as the bike’s top speed—100 kilometres per hour (62 miles per hour)!!
Don’t Try to Run Before You Walk
If you’re one of the many of us who are just using an electric bike to get from A to B and love the convenience and carbon friendly alternative it provides to other types of transportation, we recommended that you stay around regulated speeds.
As humans, we tend to always want to go faster, but it’s important to realize that these established speed limits were developed with safety in mind. Bear in mind that there are many other people on the roads, so you may love flying down the street with the wind blowing through your hair, but it could end up endangering someone else.
That said, however, if you have plans of checking out one of the electric bicycles capable of really high speeds, have a blast (and do so off-road). We hope you enjoy seeing what all of these modern electric bikes are truly capable of.